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By Laurence Holmes-
(CBS) — “We played like sh*#!” That’s what Brian Urlacher said after the Bears 24-13 loss to Detroit on Monday night. With the loss, the Bears are 2-3. That makes the worst start they’ve had since 2007. Everywhere you look with this team there’s a problem. Perhaps too many for the Bears to fix in 11 games.
Leadership of this team has been deficient. And I’m not talking about the players… yet. It’s shocking that the Bears coaches continue to struggle with the smallest task — namely, decision-making. The Bears have used upwards of 20 timeouts in five games this season because they struggle in making decisions. Whether those decisions are to go for it in a short yardage situation, punt or kick the field goal. From there, they struggle at least offensively with what play to call. It results in a lack of execution and makes everyone look dysfunctional.
These type of decisions are why coaches make the big bucks. It’s why they can stand in front of a podium and say “trust me” when their decisions are questioned. So to have problems persist without correction is a bit troubling.
For the second week in a row, I’ve asked Lovie Smith why this team is struggling getting plays called on time. This is how he replied:
“Can’t really give you answer for that. We just gotta get the plays in quicker. It’s kinda as simple as that. Calling the plays and getting them in kinda went along with the rest of the stuff we did tonight.”
That’s not encouraging. Either he doesn’t know or won’t say what the problem is. If he doesn’t know, then he doesn’t understand how his offense works and leadership should be questioned. If he won’t say (which I suspect), that’s fine, but the question will remain until they get it fixed.
Behind Smith, you have Mike Martz, who has spent the last two years trying to fit square pegs into round holes. He’s been reluctant to play to the strengths of his best players: Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. He along with Smith continue to start Frank Omiyale, who has been repeatedly benched in games for ineffective play. That shows a lack of imagination and quite frankly, an honest evaluation process. You can’t just hope that Omiyale will magically play better.
Martz has also taken the Bears leading receiver from last year, Johnny Knox and made him an after thought. After almost putting 1,000 yards (960) in 2010, Knox looks like a player who’s confidence is shattered. Here’s the sad part. It was his offensive coordinator that took the first swing with the confidence sledgehammer. Martz took Knox out to the woodshed early and often in training camp and was instrumental in replacing him with Roy Williams. A player that is lucky to still be on an NFL roster.
The callousness with which Knox was handled was reprehensible and shows an inability to relate and get the most out of a player.The promotion of Williams is another example of the Bears trying to will something into existence The Bears coaches chose to criticize instead of encourage. With some players that works. With Knox it didn’t. The Bears should’ve been more in tune with what their player needed. To Knox’s credit, he’s been the good soldier. He didn’t want out of Chicago back in camp and doesn’t want out now. He just wants to find what he’s lost and help the offense make plays.
“It’s not about me. It’s about this team. As far as personal goals, I wish I could get the goals I wanna get, but in the end it’s about this team,” Knox said.
The most glaring problem that the Bears have is that they’re just not as talented as other teams. Look around the division. Look around the league and you see that the Bears are at a talent deficit. That falls at the feet of Jerry Angelo.
Remember this is a team that had FIVE undrafted rookies make the squad. If one of those guys makes your team, that’s fine. In fact, it’s a feel-good underdog story that is part of the reason that we love sports. If FIVE of those guys make your team, it shows a talent void at the bottom of your roster.
The offensive line is the isle of misfit toys. Chris Williams busted out at tackle and now finds himself at guard. Not a good value for the 14th overall pick. J’Marcus Webb has stuggled to develop even with the hand-holding of Mike Tice, who by the way has somehow escaped any criticism for a line that has allowed Cutler to be sacked more than any quarterback in the last two seasons. Roberto Garza is doing the best he can to hold the line together, but he’s probably better as a secondary leadership voice.
The defense is fighting against Father Time. Right now they’re losing. Look at the productive players in this defense: Brian Uralcher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Chris Harris. Now, tell me which guys look ready to step into their roles when they walk away. You can’t because there aren’t any. The lack of depth on defense is horrifying. Angelo has swung and missed more times than Adam Dunn when it comes to drafting. It’s a team without young superstars and without building blocks.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Laurence, where’s the blame for the players?” There’s plenty of time to break down their deficiencies as well. Heck, we got 11 more games to do that and trust me, there is a lot to discuss, but the problems of the 2011 Bears goes much deeper than the false starts, missed blocks and blown assignments. The folks in charge of this team haven’t done their job and because of it, there’s a significant hole to dig out of.